Study Links Ringing iPhone Separation To Anxiety, Poor Cognitive Performance

New research from the University of Missouri has found that iPhone separation can have "serious psychological and physiological effects," with participants showing poor performance on cognitive tests when not in possession of their Apple device. However, the way the study was conducted, it may not be the actual separation from an iPhone that affects people, but the inability to answer a ringing device.

"Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks," Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the MU School of Journalism and lead author of the study, said. "Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state."

That may be a bit of a leap. As part of the study, researchers found that iPhone users couldn't solve simple word search puzzles when unable to answer their ringing iPhones. It also led to increased heart rates and blood pressure levels, along with feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness.

iPhone 6 User
Image Source: Flickr (Eduardo Woo)

Those who participated in the study thought they were testing the reliability of a new wireless blood pressure cuff. They were tasked with completing their first word search puzzle with their iPhone devices in their possession and then again without their iPhones within arm's reach (or vice versa).

To separate them from their phones, participants were told that their devices were causing Bluetooth interference with the blood pressure cuff, requiring that iPhones be placed further away in the room for the rest of the experiment. Once separated from their handsets, researchers called their devices while they worked on a second word search puzzle.

In both test cases, researchers recorded blood pressure levels and heart rates. They also had the participants report their levels of anxiety and how unpleasant or pleasant they felt during the tasks. And of course those who were unable to answer their phones were the most negatively affected by these tests.

It's an interesting study, though one could easily argue it says more about not being able to answer a ringing phone than it does with separation. It's also not clear why the researchers focused solely on iPhone users -- we have a hunch that Android and Windows Phone users would react the same had they been included in the study.

In any event, you can read the full study here.